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Clang Clang Clang … Went the Trolley

A reader's photo of a bell her family has had for a REAL long time. Now she knows it's from the Rochester City and Brighton Railroad Company (c1860-1890).

Recently I received an email from a local woman asking for help identifying an old bell with some strange letters. She states quite simply, “I have an old bell with these letters RC&BRR. Can you give me any information on this?” Right away I recognized those letters…

A reader's photo of a bell her family has had for a REAL long time. Now she knows it's from the Rochester City and Brighton Railroad Company (c1860-1890).Nearly 100 years before Judy Garland sang her memorable trolley bell tuneexternal link, the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad Company (RC&BRR) was operating horse-drawn trolleys – or technically, horse-drawn streetcars – in Rochester across 9 miles of track. These beautiful work-horses clip-clopped up and down our cobblestone streets from the 1860’s until Rochester Railway Co. took over the operation in 1890 and replaced the horsecars with new electric cars.

SO cool!

I had to see this bell; and so I asked her to send me a photo of it (see above). Yup. Looks like the real deal to me. It’s missing the little leather strap but other than that it appears to be of the very same variety as the one attached to the horse’s neck in this old photo…

A horse-drawn streetcar rounds a corner near Main Street. It is car number 55 of the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad Company. The car was later added to the collection at the Transportation Museum in Henrietta. In this photograph many people are gathered around to examine the streetcar. This may have been a parade to celebrate the Rochester Centennial in 1934. [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone Collection]

Horsecar, or trolley bells were attached to the bridle of the horse to both announce the arrival of the vehicle and to warn pedestrians to steer clear. The bells are all brass or bronze and many were unmarked.

Unfortunately she has no idea how her family acquired this amazing little artifact. She just knows it has been in her father’s family for as long as she can remember. And, sadly, her father and all of his siblings have passed on.

A trolley bell from NYC's 3rd Ave. R.R. CO. recently sold on eBay for $170.What I’d like to know is how many more of these there are out there. The streetcar shown in the photo above was later added to the collection of the Transportation Museumexternal link in Henrietta. I wonder if they have the bell?

Here is oneexternal link I found on eBay from NYC’s 3rd Ave. R.R. CO. It sold for $170.

And no… she has no intention of selling hers. Though, if you happen to have any additional information on these bells, please leave a comment below. Your tip just might help our bell owner trace its history.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 8th, 2011 at 10:43 pm and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Train/Railroad Stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Clang Clang Clang … Went the Trolley”

  1. Hanan Kolko says:

    Do you know the routes the RC&BRR followed?

  2. @Hanan, not off the top of my head but I looked it up. Here’s a map from 1866…
    Rochester City & Brighton route map (1866). Follow the dark lines.

    And by 1885 the routes went something like this…

    • Lake Ave. from Four Corners to Driving Park
    • Exchange & Mount Hope from Four Corners to Mt. Hope Cemetery
    • Lyell Ave. from Four Corners via Allen St., Platt, and Smith
    • North and West Ave. from Bay RR Depot to Four Corners
    • Park Ave. and Meigs St. from Four Corners via Saint Paul, Scio, University & Alexander
    • Monroe Ave. from Four Corners via Arsenal, Alexander, Goodman
    • North St., Saint Paul, and Caledonia Ave. from Four Corners via Buffalo St.
    • Allen and Jay St. from Four Corners
    • Clinton St. from Four Corners
    • Main St. and University Ave. from Four Corners
    • Mount Hope from Four Corners via South Ave.
    • Rochester and Lake Ontario Railroad connected with North St. and Saint Paul St. cars from Ave E. to Windsor Beach
    • A pretty extensive system!

  3. UPDATE: Jim from NY Transportation Museum tells me that NYMT has a couple of these bells. Go to the Archive page of their website and type “bell” (without the quotes) in the Key Words box.

    The horsecar in the photo is the property of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and although was on display at NYMT in prior years, is now in storage with RMSC.

  4. Kevin Yost says:

    The Transportation Museum is in Rush, not Henrietta.

  5. It depends on which side of the border you’re standing on.

  6. Richard Fischpera says:

    When I started out at the museum back in the seventies the horsecar was a great exhibit. Later the Museum and Science Center took it back for a display. Well its been twenty plus years and the horsecar hasn’t seen the light of day. Why noy bring it back to the NYMT so people can visit our past.

  7. @Richard, you’re on to something there. I think maybe I’ll ask them about that. I do want to go and check out the 9/11 exhibit before it’s gone.

  8. Richard Fischpera says:

    Thanks, I am sure many would like to see the car again.

  9. Richard Washburn says:

    I have a similar bell that I bought at a flea market in Houston in the late 80’s. Mine says: “42 ST M & STN AVE R W O C”

  10. jt cohan says:

    I have one of these bells and am interested in selling it. It still has remnants of the leather strap. Please let me kniw who may be interested. I would live to see it remain in the Rochester area. Jtcohan@yahoo.com

  11. Doug C. says:

    Don’t know if you happen to have seen it or not, but my website has a lot about horse car bells. I have 46 in my personal collection. Check it out, if you haven’t already!

    Doug

  12. Jo says:

    I have one of those bells with letters RC&BRR and Im interested in selling


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